Executive order could make repairing farm equipment cheaper, easier
SNOW HILL, Md. – Local farmers say fixing software malfunctions on some equipment is usually a big headache. That’s why they say President Joe Biden’s executive order on the right to repair could help keep cash in their wallets. “What is hopeful out here, in our world, is the fact that you’re going to come along and you’re going to get a manual or you’re going to get a SIM card or something that you’re going to be able to put on your laptop,” said Worcester County farmer Virgil Shockley.
The right to repair farm equipment like tractors, combines, and sprayers is something local farmers say they’ve been waiting on for years. The hope of saving money, and simply making it easier to repair equipment, got brighter Friday with the stroke of President Joe Biden’s pen. “This should’ve been done 20 years ago. Every administration has talked about it, and everybody has talked about it, and everybody has talked about it. and nobody’s done a thing,” said Shockley.
Before Friday’s signing, farm equipment manufacturers were able to rule out the possibility of bringing broken machinery to a repair shop other than the dealer it came from. Now, the Federal Trade Commission is being directed by the president to put rules in place that would cut down on that practice. “That’s why today I’m going to be signing shortly and executive order, promoting competition- to lower prices, to increase wages and to take another critical step toward an economy that works for everybody,” said President Biden during the signing.
Shockley says that when it comes to things like an oil change, or just replacing broken parts on a piece of farm equipment, that’s no big deal for many experienced farmers. He says when it comes to the computer systems inside of these machines, which is what makes them tick, that’s when you have to contact the manufacturer to get it fixed. “You could be going down the middle of the field, and all of a sudden the engine just goes. That’s it, and it shuts right off. I’ve had that happen. It’s not a fuel filter. It’s nothing else. It’s part of the system’s electronics in the tractor itself,” said Shockley. “You can’t go down to Uncle Joe’s and fix at a tractor supply place. They’re not going to fix it because they don’t have what you need on a computer side in order to fix it.”
As Shockley explains it, every time something goes wrong with the computer system in farm equipment, farmers can expect to pay hundreds of dollars to fix equipment that can cost upwards of $500,000. He says that also means waiting sometimes hours to get a technician on site. “When you look at the amount that you’re spending, and you think that you actually own something, you don’t really own it. I mean it’s sitting there, and you own it technically. But if something goes wrong with it and it doesn’t run, it’s just a hunk of metal,” said Shockley.
Shockley says it’s also important to remember that about 10,000 hours of driving one of these things is about the same as 250,000 miles on a car. He says for that reason, many farmers aren’t swapping out their farming equipment as often as you would think. Shockley says the cost of all those repairs definitely add up over time. “It’s very difficult to come up with that kind of money, especially when prices of corn and beans are where they have been,” said Shockley.